[Day 412] What it is like to intern at Netflix

When I was interviewing with Netflix, I reached out to my friends to see if anyone has experience interning there. The universal reaction I got was:

“What? You’re interviewing with Netflix? I thought they didn’t have an internship program. They don’t even take recent graduates.”

Netflix’s notorious lack of interns comes from various well-publicized articles. There’s also a sense of mild curiosity on the campus. Our school is considered one of the power houses of Silicon Valley. Name one hot tech company in Bay Area, and we know somebody who’s interned/worked there: Google, Facebook, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Uber, OpenAI, etc. It’s just odd that we don’t know anybody that has interned at Netflix.

After my first week at Netflix, I thought it might be a good idea to write about my experience there. I hope this will serve two purposes: 1. to bust the myth that there are no interns at Netflix. 2. to give an idea of what it’s like to work at one of the world’s most interesting companies.

Myth: there are no interns at Netflix

It’s true that Netflix doesn’t want any intern. When I told my recruiter that I wanted to write a blog post about interning at Netflix, he asked me to not give the impression that they’re looking for more interns. They really aren’t.

Out of hundreds of teams at Netflix HQ in Los Gatos, there are only two teams that took interns: my team and a neighboring team, putting the count of interns at a grand total of 7. Most of them are master’s, PhD, post-doc students. I’m the only one who still hasn’t finished my undergraduate degree.

How did I get the job?

The first time I got a LinkedIn message from Rohit — my now manager, I almost didn’t respond. I thought it wasn’t legitimate. He said he was an engineering manager at Netflix and asked if I’d be interested in an opportunity there. I’ve received a lot of recruiting messages on LinkedIn, but almost always from recruiters or from engineers at small startups. I didn’t see how a manager at a moderately big company would go out of their way to reach out to someone as insignificant as me.

When we finally met — Rohit was very accommodating to my schedule — I was humbled by his intellect, kindness, and efficiency. I asked him why he, and not someone in HR, reached out to me. He said it’s just how Netflix works. Everyone takes initiative — if they want something, they go for it.

Their hiring process for interns was unconventional. I met the manager, visited the office, and talked to the team, but there was no typical Silicon Valley-ish technical interview. Netflix doesn’t have an internship program, so technically I’m a contractor, not an intern. Other interns also got their offers through unconventional channels. There was no advertisement that Netflix was looking for interns.

What it is like to intern at a company with no internship program?

1. No hand-holding

The first couple of days, I was a bit lost. I arrived at the office, they gave me a laptop, identification pin, with a piece of paper with instruction on how to access various company’s resources and I was off to doing work. There was no orientation. There was no meet and greet with other interns — we all started at different times. I asked my manager if he had time to sync up, and he gladly accepted.

In the beginning, I was a bit confused about the problem I was supposed to work on. But then I reached out to other people and they gave me much better context. Everyone has been super helpful when I reach out to them. I understood that at Netflix, nobody is going to hold your hand and guide you step by step. They make a point of hiring only people with experiences — the engineer team is exclusively made up of senior software engineers — and their employees are supposed to know how to get things done. If they don’t know, they’re supposed to know how to ask.

2. So much freedom

Netflix gives you a lot of freedom. A LOT. Nobody keeps track of when you come in or leave the office. There’s no holiday calendar — you can just take any day off any time you want, or work from home for that matter.

The project I’m given is a research project with a lot of possible directions to follow, and my impression is that I’m given the freedom to explore any of them, or all of them. It’s a bit scary, but my manager assumes that I know the topic well enough to make the choice best suit for Netflix.

3. No swags

When my friends know that I’m working at Netflix, they automatically assume that I must be given a free account. Wrong! Netflix is almost anti-Silicon Valley swag culture — they don’t give you anything for free. Not even a T-shirt. I’m told that employees are given a small stipend to buy swags they want from the Netflix store. Interns aren’t qualified for that.

But when Netflix gives you something, it’s good. Their food is delicious. I’ve tried food at different  tech campuses and Netflix’s food is by far my favorite. Their snacks are high-qualify snacks that you actually want to pay yourself instead of cheap, sugary, unhealthy snacks. They also have shuttles to/from various locations in Bay Area. They have a shuttle to Santa Cruz!

That’s about it for now. It’s only been my first week so I’m still learning. Wish me luck with the rest of my internship!

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[Day 412] What it is like to intern at Netflix

7 thoughts on “[Day 412] What it is like to intern at Netflix

  1. Nguyen Hai Anh says:

    I was so depressed and obstructive in some day. This morning I read you writing about the age of 22, and then discovery your website. You don’t know how wonderful it is when I read one by one your stories. Keep doing it Chip. It’s inspired and lighted my day up.
    Cheerful and wish all the best for you,
    Hai Anh

    Liked by 1 person

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